It’s a question you might face on draft day. Do I draft an up-and-coming player entering his prime or an aging superstar who in previous years was a no-brainer to be drafted first? In this year’s draft, Ryan Zimmerman is an up and coming player and Alex Rodriguez is an aging superstar. So which one would you rather have?
- Averages the past two years: .299 AVG | 98 R | 29 HR | 96 RBI | 3 SB
- Career highs in BA, OBP and OPS last year
- Increased walk rate and decreased strikeout rate last year
- Better supporting cast this year with veterans Jayson Werth and Adam Laroche and youngsters Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa
- At 26 years old, entering his prime power years
- In five-year career has only eclipsed 30 HR once, 100 RBI once and a .300 AVG once
- Power dropped off last year
- After stealing double-digit bases in 2006, has not come close since
- Swung at 25.9% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2010 compared to 21.3% in 2009
- Averages the past three years: .286 AVG | 85 R | 32 HR | 109 RBI | 12 SB
- 13 straight seasons with 30 HR and 100 RBI
- Bats in the middle of one of baseball’s most potent lineups
- Plays half his games in a hitters park
- Totaled 125 RBI last year in only 137 games
- Takes care of his body well
- Will start the season at 35 years old
- Has played in fewer than 140 games for three straight seasons
- Stole only four bases last year after stealing 14 bases in 2009 and 18 the year before
- Batting average has declined for three straight years
While it is clear from the list above that Rodriguez is on the downswing of his career and Zimmerman is on the rise, I’d still rather A-Rod for 2011, unless it’s a keeper league of course. The main reason is A-Rod’s power advantage. Even though he’ll only play 135-140 games, he is still a strong candidate to hit 30-plus HR, and with Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira hitting in front of him the RBI opportunities will once again be plentiful. Zimmerman, on the other hand, had only 25 HR and 85 RBI last year. He should improve upon those totals but they’re unlikely to reach A-Rod’s power totals.
Another reason I like A-Rod over Zimmerman this year is the stolen base potential. Although A-Rod had only four last year, that’s the most Zimmerman has had in any year since 2006. I’m not expecting A-Rod to steal 20-plus or even 15-plus bases ever again, but since he’s a good base runner I don’t see why he can’t steal 10 bases.
As a result of A-Rod’s advantage in the power and speed categories, Zimmerman needs to be much better in runs and batting average to close the gap between himself and A-Rod. While Zimmerman does have a decent sized advantage in runs due to the fact that he plays in more games, he’s not decidedly better in batting average. His .307 AVG last year was buoyed by a BABIP of .334 (the highest of his career), which wasn’t supported well enough by his LD% of 17.6 percent. In actuality, Zimmerman is more of a low .290s hitter.
At this stage of his career, A-Rod is not much worse than a low .290s hitter, likely falling around the mid .280s, which was where his batting average was in 2009. Although A-Rod batted only .270 last year, his .274 BABIP was by far the lowest of his career. Add in the fact that A-Rod struck out only 18.8 percent of the time (the first year in his Yankee career that he struck out less than 20 percent of the time), and it’s safe to say that he should have a better batting average than he did in 2010.
To sum it up in basic terms, I’d rather have A-Rod’s HR, RBI and SB totals and only Zimmerman’s R total and AVG. I know I will draft Rodriguez over Zimmerman if presented with the choice, but which one will you draft?
Check out our other articles pitting two players against each other: